MISSOURI (CHAMPIONSHIP) LOVES COMPANY: Is a World Series repeat in store for the Cardinals? Photo courtesy Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Today not only marks the start of the 2012 MLB Playoffs, but a new era for pro baseball’s entire playoff format. Instead of eight teams, there are now ten. Instead of one wild card, there is now two. Instead of three rounds, there are now four (technically).

The handling of this new format will be much the way it was in the regular season: we can anticipate all we want, but no one will really know anything until we play this newly-formed bracket out.

There’s one thing we don’t have speculate on: it undoubtedly adds intrigue and excitement to what was already a very intriguing and exciting time of year. But the flip side to that coin is that it makes it much harder to try and foresee how things will play out.

Like I said, we may all look very, very foolish once a World Series champion has been crowned.

Still, that won’t stop me from taking a crack at it. Here is how I’m guessing this postseason plays out:

Photo courtesy Jim Rogash/Getty Images

AL Wild Card Game

Baltimore Orioles vs. Texas Rangers – There’s no other way to say this: Texas looked abominable in that final game against Oakland. Like worst-team-to-make-the-playoffs bad. We could sit here and break down the match ups and I could tell you the Rangers have a distinct advantage both in their starting pitching and offense, but a couple of facts get in the way of that. First, very little that exists in the realms of “facts” and “logic” have applied to this Orioles team so far. Second, the postseason, as much as anything else, is about the right team heating up at the right time. Two days is just not enough separation from an embarrassing end to the season for Texas and Baltimore wins this one. Probably by one run. Maybe even in extra innings. WINNER: Baltimore Orioles

NL Wild Card Game

Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals – The defending champs are back in October via a Wild Card berth, making it very hard to go against them. However, I can definitively say, out of this field of ten, this Cards roster is the runt of the litter. Also, the last time a world champion successfully defended the crown was over a decade ago with Joe Torre and that amazing Yankees dynasty amidst the turn of the century. So, if St. Louis isn’t going to win it, why not knock ’em out here? The fact of the matter is the Braves just don’t lose ball games when Kris Medlen is on the mound and I would be insane to expect anything different here. Don’t ask me to give you a line on the run differential, but Atlanta takes this one and advances. WINNER: Atlanta Braves


New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles – The Yankees are a top seed in the American League, again. Quick, somebody stop the presses! No, the surprise here are the Baltimore Orioles who one GuysNation.com moron (read: Bryan Lienesch) picked to only win 66 games. Instead, they and New York got into one of the fiercest pennant races I’ve seen in a long, long time and, if these two meet each other here in the ALDS, I expect nothing less than a wildly exciting series. Where the Yankees roll in with their traditional name-brand power (CC, Jeter, A-Rod, Tex, etc.), the Orioles, loaded with guys like Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Nate McLouth, Jim Thome, and Joe Saunders, look more like a rag-tag band of MLB castaways that rallied together for one improbable season. It’s made for a great story, but I think that’s where it ends. The Yankees have too much talent and veteran leadership to let a divisional series against a club that hasn’t made the playoffs in fifteen years get away. WINNER: New York Yankees

Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers – Don’t let their records full you: the Athletics got to where they are playing the underdog card and that’s exactly what they are against a fearsome Tigers team. I would leave to see Oakland’s incredible story continue, but it’s going to be tough even playing one of only two playoff teams that failed to reach the 90-win threshold. Pitching, like goaltending in hockey, is vital in the playoffs, and the Athletics certainly have it. But, again, these guys are young and inexperienced. And even if you don’t believe that matters too much, the fact of the matter is they’ll be pitching to a Tigers lineup anchored by the first Triple Crown winner four and a half decades. That may just be too much power for this awesome Cinderella story to continue. WINNER: Detroit Tigers

Photo courtesy Hunter Martin/Getty Images


Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves – Prior to their final series against one another, the regular season head-to-head matchup between these two teams was particularly lopsided. The Nationals had taken 10 of 15 games from their closest divisional opponent which explained a lot about the comfy lead they enjoyed at the time. However, Atlanta swept them when the Nationals came to Georgia one last time and turned an otherwise boring pennant race into one that was mildly interesting. Still, there are a lot of things going in the Nationals favor here. For one, that last series was on the road. Washington will have home field advantage where they were 50-31 on the season. Second, the Braves are going to use Kris Medlen on Friday for their Wild Card Game. If they win that, and I have them doing just that on here, Medlen then probably wouldn’t be available in the NLDS until Game 3. I hate to say it, but I don’t think Chipper is going home with a ring in his final season. WINNER: Washington Nationals

Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants – This is a series that, A, I’m glad is already locked in and, B, can’t wait to watch. Now that Strasburg has been shut down, the Giants probably have the best rotation in the majors. But Cincinnati, who has home field advantage, and their Great American Ball Park is the kind of friendly confines that keeps pitchers up at night. Add guys like Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, and Jay Bruce into the fold, and you might be diagnosed as an outright insomniac. But these Giants are only a couple of years removed from getting the job done and they’ve added a LOT of offense in the meantime. And, really, that’s the one thing not often talked about when we debate hitter’s and pitcher’s ballparks: those outfield fences apply to both teams. Therefore, let’s just call it a “push”. What’s the difference maker, then? The Reds are one of the least aggressive teams on the base paths and it’ll show here in what some may see as a significant upset. WINNER: San Francisco Giants


New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers – Ah, yes, wouldn’t this be poetic? The two teams to get eliminated by the Rangers in the last two ALCS series go head-to-head for a winner-take-all shot at redemption. As much as I’m pulling for one or both American League Cinderellas (Oakland and Baltimore) to make it here, I wouldn’t be upset if these two teams made it, either. Prince and Miggy versus The Captain and Grandy. Oh, this potential ALCS has star power written all over it. And let’s not forget the pitching matchups. If we’re lucky enough to see Verlander and CC go head-to-head not once but twice (or maybe even three times?) in one series would be a real treat. However, the star power won’t decide this series. No, the supporting cast will. And, when it comes to that, this Tigers team is sorely underrated. For instance, did you know they quietly rallied to finish in the Top 10 in Team ERA? Yup, it’s not just Verlander against the world anymore. Don’t get me wrong, though: the Yankees have a great supporting cast themselves. These teams are so evenly-matched, this ALCS could really go either way, but I’m taking Motown in seven. WINNER: Detroit Tigers


Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants – This is a matchup that might have Giants fans particularly concerned. When they played their couple of series in the regular season the Nats absolutely owned the Giants, as they did many of the teams in the postseason for the NL. However, their last head-to-head series was almost two months ago and their first series was all the way back over Independence Day. That’s not a particularly strong sample size. What the Nationals will find out is that the Giants, even without Brian Wilson, can go toe-to-toe with them on the mound. The difference here, like in San Francisco’s NLDS series, will be aggressiveness on the base paths. Neither team is going to let the other put on a home run derby and it will be more about who can turn their singles into doubles and doubles into triples. When it comes to that, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth have been great, but the Giants, as a whole, have been better. They edge the postseason newcomers in a close, well-fought series. WINNER: San Francisco Giants


Photo courtesy Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

World Series

Detroit Tigers vs. San Francisco Giants – This isn’t the likeliest of Fall Classic matchups, but the real ones rarely are. The Tigers have firepower at the plate and some on the mound and the Giants have firepower on the mound and some at the plate. It’s the perfect yin-yang duel to decide the world champions of professional baseball. The Tigers have some real sluggers, but there’s also not a lot of swing-and-miss to their offense (24th in strikeouts). However, there is plenty of swing-and-miss when it comes to San Francisco’s pitching. The real danger here is that Detroit has not played well on the road this season and San Francisco is a long ways away from the Motor City. They might be able to overcome a home field disadvantage once or twice against Oakland and New York, but against San Francisco backed by their star-studded postseason rotation? I don’t think so.

San Francisco Giants

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